When the training of Scottish teachers was passed from the Churches to the Provincial Committees at the start of the twentieth century, the Edinburgh committee decided to build a major new facility to accommodate rising numbers and improve training methods.
The Edinburgh Provincial Committee for the Training of Teachers (EPC) was established under a Minute of the Scotch Education Department (SED) in 1905. Along with the other three provincial committees it recognised that the Scottish Presbyterian Churches could no longer shoulder the burden of training Scottish teachers. This responsibility would require to be taken over by the country as a whole.
Discussions commenced in 1905/6 with the Church of Scotland and the United Free Churches on the transfer of their teacher training facilities to the Provincial Committees. The United Free Churches agreed to transfer their Moray House Training College buildings and the St John Street Hostel to the Edinburgh Provincial Committee in 1907. The Church of Scotland also agreed to the transfer of their Chambers Street building and the Practising School in Johnstone Terrace.
At this time there were major changes to teacher training in Scotland. The increase in demand for teachers arising from state support for compulsory schooling meant that there was a need for more teacher trainees.
In 1904/5 under the churches' aegis there had been 1641 teacher trainees, by 1910/11 under the Provincial Committees, this had risen to 2917. From 1913 all entrants into the teaching profession also had to be properly trained and the main objective of the new Provincial Committees became to ensure "that all students should undergo a proper course of professional training.
The accommodation requirements for the Training Centre could only be met by a major new facility. The buildings transferred from the churches were not sufficient to cope with the needs of the increasing student numbers. The aim was to provide one large building rather than the various and separate buildings then owned. Such a building was also planned to facilitate improvements in training methods. The development of the new Training Centre building was agreed in 1910.
During 1909/10 the EPC had, with SED approval, acquired various sites adjacent to its Moray House properties. These included: the Moray United Free Church, Hall and grounds; the corner of St John Street and the South Back; and various properties along St John Street.
The Moray Church and south end/east side of St John Street provided a suitable site for the new building. Demolition of affected properties began in July 1911.
Also demolished was the New Building, an austere teaching block dating from the 1870's which stood a little to the north of the present Paterson's Land.
The architect Alan K Robertson was commissioned to draw up plans for the Teaching Centre for some 800 students. A three story high building of simple classical design was developed with a central quadrangle entered by gates from Holyrood Road. The total area was 40,000 square feet. The building works cost some £53,000. The Penguin Guide to Edinburgh's architecture describes Paterson's Land as 'a large building, unexciting English Baroque'. In the quadrangle the main feature is a Dutch colonial gable between octagonal towers.
The interior was more successful where A K Robertson provided three gymnasia, a library and a spacious students' dining room. These together with other features such as art rooms, laboratories, a Museum, and staff and students common rooms have all been relocated, but the Main Hall, the Board Room, the Tiered Lecture Theatre (Room LG 34) still retain their original appearance. From these it is evident that A K Robertson created a building that was extremely practical and yet demonstrated the high status that was accorded to education in the years immediately before the Great War.
Building work on this "New Training College" started in June 1911.The foundation stone was laid on 20 October 1911 by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William S Brown. A casket containing coins, newspapers etc was placed in the foundation stone. Professor Alexander Darroch, Chairman of the EPC was also present.
The first students and staff were able to use the building on 15 October 1913. The building was finished in 1914 following the completion of the north east wing with its rooms for Art, Woodwork and Sewing.
Subsequently the Chambers Street and Johnstone Terrace buildings of the Church of Scotland Training School were sold. It wasn't until 1929 that the St George's Episcopalian College was closed with its teacher training students joining those of Moray House.
In 1994/5 the building was renamed Paterson's Land in honour of Dr Maurice Paterson who had been Rector of the Moray House School from 1864 -1907.
Moray House has continued to make full use of the flexible space in Paterson's Land. A major extension to the then Library was added in 1980. A Drama facility was created in the basement area in 1980 - 82, now occupied by the MALTS television studio and workshop. Accommodation for the Moray House Student Union was created in the southwest corner of the building in 1983/4. At one time the Main Hall was converted to an AV and Library Resource Centre and more recently it was used as a gym.
In the early 1970s the School of Community Studies (Community Education and Social Work) occupied a former school building in Regent Road. In 1976 it was agreed that a major 'open plan' facility for this unit should be developed on the top floor west, following a successful experiment at Regent Road. This was completed and available to staff and students from September 1980 onwards. It replaced the original biology, science and physics laboratories on this floor following the science departments relocation to St Mary's Land in 1977.
In 1996 the complete refurbishment of Paterson's Land was started. Following the merger in 1998 with the University of Edinburgh the last phase of this project was completed by Estates & Buildings.
The Edinburgh Mosaic can be found in the main corridor of Paterson's Land. It is a panel of vitreous tiles depicting a view of Edinburgh in 1707 at the time the Act of Union was signed. It occupies a position in the centre of the main corridor and covers a surface area of sixty square feet. Its origin lies in a series of awards made to postgraduate students of the Edinburgh School of Art under the Andrew Grant Bursaries scheme. Holders were encouraged to work experimentally in their chosen medium and provide a work of public interest. The artist, William J Macaulay, was able to study mosaic art in Greece, Turkey and Palestine. He chose to work on the mosaic for Moray House. His work was praised in the Scotsman of 18 November 1938:
The artist has conveyed the blue-grey atmosphere of the city in a pervasive colour ... The descending level of the houses from the Castle on the right is achieved in a subtle manner. The Salisbury Crags... make an effective feature on the left. ... Moray House itself, with the smaller building in which the treaty was signed - the latter picked out in a slightly higher tone - are readily recognised.
A Latin inscription forms the border, recording that,
In the garden of Moray House on 1st May 1707 the ambassadors of Scotland subscribed the Act of Union between Scotland and England.
It is now thought unlikely that the Act of Union was signed in the Moray House Summer House, although it is possible that some signatures were added in this building.
At the unveiling ceremony held on 17 November 1938 those present included the artist, Professor Godfrey Thomson of Moray House, Principal Hubert Wellington of the College of Art, Mr Stanley Cursiter, Director of the Scottish National Gallery, and according to the 'Scotsman', as many students as could assemble in the corridor and on the main staircase.
Material compiled and edited in 2002 by David Starsmeare and Hugh Perfect.
This article was published on Jul 2, 2013